Most 15-year-olds spend their free time playing video games or watching television. For Ruby Chitsey, however, it’s an age when time is of the essence and she chooses to spend hers at a local nursing home. 

Chitsey is the CEO and founder of Three Wishes for Ruby’s Residents, an Arkansas-based nonprofit dedicated to granting small wishes to long-term care residents. As if one kid managing a nonprofit weren’t impressive enough, Chitsey is supported by six other young altruists comprising the organization’s “Kid Board.” 

She and her fellow kids collaborate with nursing staff across the US to grant residents’ wishes. They have fulfilled more than 40,000 wishes. Some of the items residents popularly request are clothes, favorite candy, pet food and blankets. Although most items cost less than $10, no wish is too big or too small. Three Wishes is financially supported by private donors who cover operating costs and overhead, according to the Three Wishes website.

Chitsey started Three Wishes when she was only 10 years old. After spending time at the nursing home her mother worked at, Chitsey developed a connection with the senior residents. Fast forward five years and Chitsey’s mother, Amanda, serves as the president of Three Wishes to help her daughter and the rest of the “Kid Board.”

Chitsey has been recognized globally for her humanitarian work. She was named a top 20 finalist for Time magazine’s “2022 Kid of the Year.” 

To add to her list of accolades, Chitsey was most recently presented with the 2023 Spirit of NADONA Award at the 36th annual National Association of Directors of Nursing Administration (NADONA) conference in Orlando, FL. The award is presented to an individual who gives back to the senior community and works toward providing residents a better quality of life. NADONA President Robin Arnicar presented Chitsey with the award. 

“Unfortunately, sometimes in healthcare we get so busy trying to take care of the physical and the safety needs of people, we forget about psychosocial well being, love and belonging,” said Arnicar. “She [Ruby] is just fulfilling an unmet need.” 

When NADONA board members stumbled upon a video of Chitsey, they knew they had found their next Spirit award recipient. She is the first person not affiliated with NADONA to be given this award. “Ruby was kind of a unicorn for us” said Arnicar. 

Like a unicorn in its truest form, Ruby Chitsey is one of a kind. “Kindness Is My Hobby” is her mantra  — and the title of her recent children’s book on how youth can get involved in charity. 

We can all learn a thing or two from Chitsey. Arnicar suggests nursing leaders should consider their policies on allowing children within their facilities. She encourages programming that forms intergenerational connections between residents and youth. Some ways to facilitate this include allowing staff to bring their children to work and scheduling activities with nearby daycare centers. 

“Talk to your programming staff to see how many children related programs they have and be intentional about bringing children into the nursing homes,” Arnicar added. 

As for Ruby, she continues to make her mark on our world. 

“We need more people like Ruby,” Arnicar says, describing her as “vibrant.” “She truly is humble and doing it for the right reasons. She’s making an impact.”